Must an employer accommodate doctor’s orders?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Must an employer accommodate doctor’s orders?

My husband had surgery to remove skin cancer cells. His doctor wrote a medical release to not lift over 20 pounds. His employer told him it needed to be 30 pounds are he would not be able to work. His doctor rewrote the release for 30 pounds. Now they are forcing him to take vacation, no pay or apply for short term disability until the stitches are removed. They are saying that his job still requires to lift over 30 pounds. He was hired as part of management last year and has the ability to do a number of things under his job title.

Asked on April 4, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

What many people do not realize is that a doctor's note is not legally binding on an employer. In other words, such a note need not be honored. Additionally, a company is free to terminate an at-will worker who misses too much work since attendance is typically a basic requirement of a job. That having been said, such absences are protected if the employee uses available PTO (i.e. sick or vacation time); the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act); the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act); or workers' compensation laws. Otherwise, unless they have protection under the terms of an employment contract or union agreement, a business is free to set the conditions of the workplace much as it sees fit or deems necessary.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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